2+2 talks in India: Futile in terms of US’ anti-Iran sanctions

IRNA – The recent meeting of the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with the ir Indian counterparts Nirmala Sitharaman and Sushm Swaraj concluded with no concrete achievements about Iran sanctions, Indian news sources said.

According to IRNA, India is looking for some exemption for its defense plans with Russia and buying Iran’s oil, because both issues are vital for India. But the last two-day negotiations between the US officials with their Indian counterparts proved that the US is still following “America First” policy.

Pompeo, after negotiations with her Indian counterpart Swaraj, said that though the US did not want to ignore the interests of its allies, it is willing to insist on the point that all the countries which seek to keep their warm relations with the US must cut off their relations with sanctioned countries.

Mattis and Pompeo arrived in Delhi on Thursday to meet their counterparts within the framework of 2+2 dialogue. The reason behind labeling the talks is as 2+2 is that two ministers from each countries meet their counterparts to discuss the most important security and strategic issues. Indian Foreign Minister had a separate bilateral meeting with Pompeo while Sitharaman met Mattis on Thursday morning before 2+2 dialogue started.

Pompeo travelled to Delhi from Islamabad, so Delhi tried to find out his point of view about Pakistan’s new government and its leader Imran Khan. The result was that both India and the US asked Pakistan to stop supporting terrorism.

Pompeo left Delhi for Kabul on Friday.

Contrary to the anticipations of the political analysts and observers, the dialogue did not raise the question of the American sanctions against Iran and Russia. The talks were about more important issues which will last for many years, Pompeo said.

The most outstanding agreement was about India’s future defense cooperation with America. The United States has introduced India as its major defense counterpart in the region, but insists on the signing of several important agreements for India’s access to military advanced technology.

The second important issue was the role of India and the United States in the Indo-Pacific regions. They also talked about terrorism.

***Iran sanctions:

The media predicted that during the talks, India will also try to make the point to the United States that its refineries are heavily dependent on imports of oil from various countries, including Iran. At a time when the price of fuel in Indian markets has increased sharply, it is difficult for India to ignore Iran’s cheap oil. Pompeo emphasized that the United States expected its allies to help it with its policies therefore, any country which wants to save its economic relations with the United States will have to cut off oil imports from Iran before Nov. 4th . These countries could compensate for their potential losses due to lack of sufficient fuel by buying oil from the United States, he said.

India imports 83 percent of its oil from several countries, so hiking crude oil prices could be quite important for Delhi, and economic growth and inflation of India depend on it.

After the US withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal, Washington has imposed new sanctions on Iran and has urged countries such as India to cut off oil imports from Iran by November 4th, otherwise they will face sanctions.

Focusing on this issue, veteran Indian journalist and analyst of regional issues Seema Guha told IRNA that ‘the India-US talks were aimed at taking forward defense and strategic ties between the two counties. Delhi’s ties with Washington have warmed considerably ever since a landmark civil nuclear agreement was signed between former President George Bush and India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. From being on opposing camps during the Cold War, India-US ties is picking up speed. Much of it is because of Washington’s desire to balance China’s growing economic and military might in the region with India.

The idea of Bush’s Neo-cons (new conservatives within the Republican Party) was also followed by Barak Obama and is now being pushed by Donald Trump. The 2+2 meeting is part of this process and an effort to make India partner the US in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regional defense architecture. Referring to the Asia-Pacific as Indo-Pacific is an attempt to flatter and woo India.’

She said ‘Delhi is pleased at the tough stand that the Donald Trump administration has taken on arch rival Pakistan. The announcement of cancelling $300 million disbursement to the Pakistan military, ahead of the Pompeo-Mattis visit and constant lecture by Americans to Pakistan on terror, including terror outfits against India is music to Delhi’s ears.’

‘The 2+2 dialogue tomorrow was expected to go well with India and the US having no major strategic differences over the Indo-Pacific, Pakistan or Afghanistan. However, there was major divergence over Iran and Russia,’ she said.

India, like the rest of the world was shocked when Donald Trump walked out of the JCPOA, an agreement which had been thrashed out minutely by Iran, the US, Russia, China, France, Germany and the UK. Despite Tehran’s strict adherence to the deal, which was endorsed by the IAEA inspectors, Trump decided not just to dishonor America’s international commitment, after all the JCPOA was also approved and upheld by the UN.

Not just this but Trump has imposed punitive sanctions against Iran. Through crippling sanctions which affects every section of society, the US hopes to get ordinary Iranians to rise against President Rouhani and the establishment. The Americans fail to realize that in cases like this when the US tries to bully Iran, the entire nation closes ranks and stand together, the senior analyst said.

‘But for India and other partners of Iran, the concern is about the US decree that any company or entity doing business with America’s adversaries, will be blocked from access to the US markets, its banks and generally barred from the US. This is tough for all business entities.’

Guha went on to note that ‘India values its friendship with Iran. It will also looks to its strategic interests. So the attempt will be to make Washington also understand its point of view. The fact is despite the Trump administrations wooing of India, for its own self interest, Delhi would like to keep all its options open and not move into the US camp lock, stock and barrel. There are many reasons for that, but one is certainly the nature of the Trump White House.’

‘The Trump Administration is not a responsible partner. In fact it has a rouge leadership, which is undermining major international agreements, whether it is the Paris Climate Deal or the JCPOA,’’ continued the Indian analyst quoting Talmiz Ahmed, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who continues to write and study West Asia.

He believes India will try to leverage its strategic interests in Iran to push for Chabahar construction work by Indian firms working in Iran. ‘India knows very well that if it quits Chabahar, the Chinese will happily fill the vacuum. India will be confined to the South Asia and be hemmed in here.’’

So during the 2+2 talks, the Indian side batted for Iran, saying its strategic interests are linked with Chabahar. Indian officials also pointed out that Chabahar can play an important part in stabilizing Afghanistan. No one knew what the US reaction may be.

Now all know that India will stand its ground on Iran and Russia, Guha said.